My Favorite Books

By Dr. Jeff Marx – Head of School

Many of you joined us in September when we hosted famous pediatric neurosurgeon, presidential candidate, and former US Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Dr. Ben Carson, on campus. Dr. Carson visited to read a book to our Lower School students. 

In his remarks, Dr. Carson attributed his career and personal success to his passion for reading. He recounted being a “terrible student” as a child and remembered preferring to watch television than read or study. He spoke reverently about his mother, who had little formal education and supported her family by cleaning houses for more affluent families. She discovered that the people in those affluent houses “had a lot of books”. They were readers. As a result, she required her kids to read and even submit book reports, which Dr. Carson now believes she probably could not read. Through reading, Dr. Carson learned grammar, syntax, and critical thinking and was exposed to a broad array of ideas and perspectives. He went from being a poor student to becoming an excellent student. 

I love to read too. One of my favorite forms of stress relief is spending a day in a good book! My favorite genre of fiction is action, spy, and suspense, and the best such book I’ve read recently is I am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes. I also enjoy historical fiction, theology, and just about any well-written book, especially the classics. There is a running debate at school between Upper School Principal Matt Donnowitz and English and Rhetoric Department Chair Sarah Novlan about who is (or was) the best Russian Novelist – Dostoyevsky or Tolstoy. I’m with Mr. Donnowitz – Dostoyevsky hands down! Crime and Punishment may be my all-time favorite novel. 

I agree with Dr. Carson; smart people read. Maybe it’s time to wean ourselves off of social media and cable news and read more!  

One of my all-time favorite interview questions is, “Tell me about the last five books you’ve read.” You can immediately tell if the candidate is a reader, and I believe readers to be more informed of diverse views, more empathetic (less radical in their beliefs), and more creative. They spend less time on social media and cable news. 

Someone recently asked me to create a list of my top 100 all-time favorite books. It was more difficult to create than expected, and I ended up including a few additional readings other than books. I include it here.

  • What do you think about my list?
  • What would you add or delete from it?
  • What books have you enjoyed lately?

Tell me about the last five books you’ve read. 

In Christ,
Dr. Jeff MarxHead of School